Patient Care

Understanding Fibromyalgia

It's difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat, but those who suffer from fibromyalgia can find relief and even recovery through correct diagnosis and intervention.

What is fibromyalgia? It is considered a rheumatoid condition of the soft tissue, namely muscle, ligaments and tendons. In fact the name fibromyalgia comes from "fibro" meaning fibrous tissue, "myo" meaning muscles, and "algia" meaning pain. Sufferers describe a diffuse aching or burning pain form head-to-toe.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain at multiple sites
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen feeling in the soft tissue
  • Poor sleep
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Depression

Although fibromyalgia is the third most frequently diagnosed disease by rheumatologists, many doctors are unaware of its unique diagnosis. The trained practitioner, however, can diagnose fibromyalgia from taking a patient's comprehansive health history, ruling out other diagnoses, and testing 18 key points on the body for tenderness.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Although nobody knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia, we do know there are many factors that together can increase the risk of the disease and exacerbate its symptoms:

  • Occupational factors such as repetitive trauma, prolonged sitting or standing, overwork, poor posture, poor diet and physical de-conditioning;
  • Environmental factors such as hot or cold temperatures, chilling humidity, excess air-conditioning, muscle overload, noise, and poor sleep (especially shift workers);
  • Psychological factors that include stress, anxiety, depression, poor coping skills, lack of support, excessive family demands, and a lack of recreation.

Those with fibromyalgia desribe the pain as having flu-like achiness all over that never goes away.

Because some doctors cannot find the cause, and because blood tests and X-rays often come back normal, patients may have a lack of support from their physicians and families.  A spouse might say, "The doctor said your tests are fine and there's nothing wrong with you.  Why are you complaining you hurt all the time?"

It's important for sufferers to find an empathetic physician who undrstands fibromyalgia and can remain supportive through long-term treatment.

Treatment Options

Treatment options include restoring sleep patterns, increasing functional activity level through low-impact aerobic exercise, nutritional education, supplements designed especially for those who suffer from fibromyalgia, energy conservation and relaxation techniques, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, and sports medicine techniques such as "stretch and spray" that uses cold therapy along with soft tissue manipulation.

For more information on fibromyalgia, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your condition with a chiropractic physician trained to identify the symptomology of fibromyalgia syndrome, please call the National University of Health Sciences Whole Health Center at 630-629-9664.

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